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Senior trade official to represent Korea at WTO over dispute with Japan

Amid escalating trade tension between South Korea and Japan, the Trade Ministry here said Monday its senior official would participate in the World Trade Organization’s General Council on Tuesday to better respond at the scene due to the gravity of the issue.

Kim Seung-ho, deputy minister for multilateral and legal affairs, will participate in the general council, the highest decision-making body, in Geneva. The council is slated to discuss the two nations’ trade dispute at its meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday at the request of the Korean government. 

Kim Seung-ho, deputy minister for multilateral and legal affairs, leaves for Geneva on Monday to attend the WTO General Council. (Yonhap)
Kim Seung-ho, deputy minister for multilateral and legal affairs, leaves for Geneva on Monday to attend the WTO General Council. (Yonhap)

The general council is usually attended by a nation’s ambassador to international organizations in Geneva. This time, however, the trade official will represent Korea. Shingo Yamagami, director-general of Tokyo’s Foreign Ministry’s economic affairs bureau, is expected to represent Japan.

Kim, a high-ranking official at the Trade Ministry, supervises multinational trade issues and disputes involving the WTO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and G-20.

During the council, the Korean side is expected to highlight that Japan’s export curbs are not in accordance with WTO norms. It will also seek to form a consensus among other members on the withdrawal of Japan’s export restrictions.

The meeting will be held Tuesday. If talks are prolonged, it will be extended until Wednesday.

Separately, the Trade Ministry plans to take Japan’s retaliatory measures to the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.

A ministry official said, “Although it may take some time, bringing a case to the WTO will prevent Japan’s repeated measures.”

The government is still considering which issue to take to the organization -- the export curbs on hi-tech materials or the exclusion of South Korea from a whitelist.

Japan announced this month it would restrict exports to Korea of hi-tech materials crucial to the production of chips and display panels. It also plans to remove Korea from a whitelist of 27 countries that receive preferential treatment in trade with Japan.

Meanwhile, the Korean government intends to back local companies through regulatory measures and financial support, to reduce the nation’s heavy reliance on Japan.

The Industry Ministry plans to streamline approval for the construction of related plants and financially support the research and development of material and parts companies.

The Finance Ministry has asked the National Assembly to increase the supplementary budget of 273 billion won ($232 million) for the localization of materials and parts for which Korea heavily relies on Japan.

By Shin Ji-hye (